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Pentagon Press Secretary John F. Kirby Holds a Press Briefing, March 4, 2022

PRESS SECRETARY JOHN F. KIRBY:  Afternoon, everybody.  Things here at the top.  Earlier today, Secretary Austin had a chance to speak with the Polish Minister of Defense Mariusz Blaszczak to discuss impacts of precious unprovoked and unjust war against Ukraine.  The Secretary praised Poland's' strong commitment to supporting the defense needs of Ukraine's forces.

And certainly, he expressed our appreciation for Poland hosting of U.S.  forces and additional U.S.  forces.  The two leaders exchanged ideas on further enhancing deterrence and defense efforts along NATO's Eastern Flank.  Now also note, Alaskan Command under North - Northern - U.S.  Northern Command is currently hosting exercise Arctic Edge 22 in Alaska held every two years.

This exercise consists of approximately 1000 U.S.  military personnel, and they're made up of units from the Army, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard, and Special Operations Command.  Also included are elements from the Royal Canadian Navy, the Royal Canadian Air Force, and the Canadian Army.  The goal of the exercise is to provide realistic and effective training for participants using the premier training locations that are available throughout Alaska.

Arctic Edge 22 is linked to other service specific exercises.  Including the National Guard's Arctic Eagle Patriot, the Army's Joint Pacific Multinational Readiness Capability Exercise, and the Navy's ICEX.  And those occur concurrently or consecutively during the month of February and March of this year.  With that, we'll take questions.  Lita.

Q:  John, can you give us a little bit more detail on the hotline, deconfliction line whatever you want to call it with Russia?  Do you know if it has been used at all/ Was it used specifically during the attack on the nuclear facility?

When one might think there might be some cause for concern.  And is it - would it be General Wolters who would be sort of in charge or on the other end of the phone?  Can you give us a sense of who - what this link is?  And then just, secondly...

MR. KIRBY:  Do you want phone number too?

Q:  Yes, if you could actually put the phone here.  That'd be good.  And then just any anything new on Odessa?

MR. KIRBY:  On the deconfliction, I don't have any information about the weather, it's been used.  It's only been in place for a couple of days, I think since early this week.  It is basically a phone line, a phone connection to the Russian Ministry of Defense.  It is being administered out of European Command Headquarters.

And as, as I understand, it's basically staffed by, you know, staff level officers there at European Command.  I have no expectation that unless he really desires that General Wolters would be the one managing that.  It's not at that level, it's at a lower operational level.  And it's being administered as a bilateral U.S.  to Russia deconfliction channel.

So, it's - that's why it's being handled at a U.S.  European command headquarters, and not General Wolters under his NATO hat.  But again, I refer you to EUCOM to talk specifically about the whether and how it's, it's been put in place.  We know it works, because we did establish it and set it up with the Russians.

And when we tested it, they did pick up the other end.  And they acknowledged that they got the call.  So, we know it works.  We think again, this is as we've done before, like in Syria, we think it's valuable to have a direct communication vehicle at that level at an operational level.  To reduce the risks of miscalculation.

And to be able to communicate in real time if need be.  Particularly because now the airspace over Ukraine is contested by both Russian and Ukrainian aircraft.  So that that contested airspace now buttress is right up against NATO.  So smart thing to do.  And we're glad it's in place.  We're glad that the Russians have acknowledged that they will use it.  On Odessa, I don't have an update for you.

We haven't seen and again, I have to caveat this by making clear our visibility and our detailed knowledge of things that are going on the ground is - has limits.  But as of this morning, we hadn't seen any significant naval activity in the Black Sea that would lead us to believe that an assault on Odessa is imminent.

That doesn't mean that that won't change over coming hours.  It very well could.  As you see for yourselves, the Russian ground forces coming out of Crimea, arcing off to the northwest through Curzon are now beginning and assault on a town called Mykolayiv.  That town is not far from Odessa just up the coast a little bit to the northeast of Odessa.

So, we don't know exactly what to make of that.  We can't assert for sure that the Russians are going to use a land route to assault Odessa or even if they're going to move on Odessa.  We're just - we're kind of watching this day by day, as you guys are.

Q:  Just a follow up on that.  So, since this is a bilateral sort of U.S.  Russia line.  Would then an instance like the nuclear plant not being an appropriate use of the line?

MR. KIRBY:  It very well could be.

Q:  Can I follow up on that?

Q:  Actually, I'm following up on that question.  The nuclear line, are you saying that it...

MR. KIRBY:  It's not a nuclear line.

Q:  Excuse me.  The deconfliction line are you saying it wasn't...

MR. KIRBY:  I'm not saying it wasn't used.  I don't have anything for you on its physical use in the last couple of days.

Q:  And what is the most senior U.S.  defense official who has spoken to their Russian counterparts since this invasion has occurred?

MR. KIRBY:  I - no leaders here at the Pentagon have.  General Milley has not spoken to General Gerasimov since the invasion.  Secretary Austin has not spoken to Minister Shoigu, his counterpart since the invasion.  I'm not aware of any other senior leaders here at the Department of Defense.

Now, I can't speak for NATO.  That's a good question for the Alliance.  But I'm not aware of any senior U.S.  military connections.

Q:  Just separately on the bridge that was blown up near that convoy.  Were U.S.  weapons used to blow up that bridge?  And what impact has it had on the convoy?

MR. KIRBY:  I do not know what specific munitions were used to fort the convoys advance.  We do have reports that a bridge was blown up that we believe was in the path there.  We also have indications that the Ukrainians have struck the convoy elsewhere and on their own - on vehicles.

But what mutations they're using Jen, I just simply couldn't speak to that level of specificity.  We do believe that the actions by the Ukrainians have in fact stalled that convoy and certainly slowed it down, stopped it in some places.  But we also think that you know that it's also a piece of Russian challenges that they've had just in terms of their own physical ground movement, sustainment, logistics.

They're running out of fuel.  We still believe that in some cases they're running out of food for their soldiers.  So, they've also been plagued by their own missteps and stumbles.  (Fadi ?).

Q:  Thank you, John.  So, I have a couple of questions on the deconfliction mechanism.  As you said, I mean, it's helpful especially now with the NATO airspace as well as the Ukraine airspace.  So why was it bilateral between the U.S.  and Russia, and not Russia and NATO?

MR. KIRBY:  I'm not going to speak for the alliance, Fadi.  And it's not like we are we are a member of NATO.  So certainly, if we can use that deconfliction line to assist with the with Alliance communications will absolutely do that.  It's not so binary as that.  All I'm trying to do is describe that it is set up bilaterally between the United States and Russia.

Q:  But I mean...

MR. KIRBY:  But of course, look, part of the reason that we're - that we want to do this is because of NATO airspace.  Which buttresses up now against contested airspace.  So, you know, if I conveyed any idea that, you know, we would only use this to convey U.S.  individual unilateral concerns, that is absolutely not the case.

Q:  Question because the senior defense official has said before that there are ideas, including maybe a NATO Russia channel.  So was this - I mean, basically, because Russia rejected such a channel and they insisted on...

MR. KIRBY:  I don't have anything.

Q:  OK.  And on Zaporizhzhia, what is the - your understanding of what happened actually yesterday?  And how safe is the nuclear plant right now?

MR. KIRBY:  We don't have perfect knowledge of exactly how this attack on the nuclear power plant transpired.  Clearly, there was one.  Clearly it was violent.  Clearly ordinance was used.  An attack was conducted on the power plant.  In an effort by Russian forces to gain control of it.  We cannot contest or refute reports that they are in fact in control of it.

And as for conditions there, again, our knowledge is imperfect.  But as we understand it, there's been no leakage of radioactive material.  Now what operational status it's in?  We can't speak to.  Our role here at the Department of Defense is to continue to assist the Department of Energy as they work through response efforts of their own.

And as they work with allies and partners.  In a - because we have experience running nuclear power plants in the Department of Defense.  We're a part of that effort providing some advice and counsel to the Department of Energy.  Let me just take a moment if I might.  Though, this is not your question to state the obvious about the dangers here.

And how this underscores the recklessness with which the Russians have been perpetrating.  This unprovoked invasion and assault on Ukraine and their sovereignty.  Attacking a nuclear power plant is exceedingly dangerous.  And could have visited a lot more damage and destruction to the people of Ukraine and to the - and perhaps even to neighboring countries had this gone a different way.

And we continue to call on Russia to stop the invasion period, de-escalate, move their troops out.  But certainly, short of that, to be more mindful of their obligations under international law.  And certainly, with respect to humanitarian concerns about perpetrating violence anywhere near a nuclear power plant.

Which are not designed to withstand combat.  It's not their function, peaceful nuclear power.  So, sorry.  I wanted to just get that out.  Court.

Q:  Do you have any indications that there's any disruptions to the power?  I know one of the concerns is that, if there's no cooling apparatus and the nuclear reactor, then that's like a real vulnerability.  Do have any - I know that it's hard to say operationally, but you have any indication that?

MR. KIRBY:  We don't.  And we don't know, again, we don't know what the status of the plant is right now.  Again, I point you to Department of Energy to talk about that with more detail.

Q:  And then one more thing on deconfliction.  I'm not clear it is - I get it.  It's between the U.S.  and the Russian military.  But is there - will there be some scenario where other NATO ally aircraft or military equipment could be - you could be de-conflicting on their behalf?

We haven't heard about any other nations setting up any kind of deconfliction and others have been sending things forward to that area?

MR. KIRBY:  I think it's entirely possible that should there be an alliance of concern that we can convey to the Russians through that channel.  We absolutely will.  Remember, we are also a NATO ally.

Q:  John, on the conflict (inaudible).  In Syria, we know that Russians and American aircraft are crossing into their lines.  And of course, they just were telling us...

MR. KIRBY:  Say that part again?  You know that Russia and...

Q:  In the Syrian airspace, Russian and American assets, were crossing into each other's line.  And that's why they're deconfliction line was used to say, hey, keep out of this area.  We are coming here.  Or we are going to strike this, or we are here we are there.  But here in that - this setting in this theater, there are two separate air spaces.

And why - like how this deconfliction line is going to be used for what?  What will they say for example, on the line?  Because we don't see it.

MR. KIRBY:  I don't think there's like a given script that's going to be used on any particular day or any particular instance.  I mean, this is - you got contested airspace over Ukraine, which buttress...

Q:  (Inaudible).

MR. KIRBY:  Just let me finish.  Which buttresses right up against countries, NATO countries and their airspace.  It makes eminent sense for us to be able to have some way of communicating with the Russians.  Should operations in that contested airspace pose any kind of a threat or even just pose a concern to the alliance or with the United States.

We want to be able to have a way of speaking directly at an operational level with the Russian Ministry of Defense.  So, it makes a lot of sense to do this.

Q:  I have on Black Sea.  We now see that Russians have almost taken a one third of the entire northern parts of the Black Sea coast of the Black Sea.  Is there a concern or to what extent concerning is it for you that Russians take the entire course of the northern Black Sea?  And just create a (geopolitical?) setting?

MR. KIRBY:  I don't apparently have your level of visibility on where the Russian ships are in the Black Sea.  And I'm not prepared to cede or to say with certainty that they have control over the international waters in the Black Sea.  They have naval assets in the Black Sea.  They're a Black Sea nation.

They have naval assets in the Black Sea.  They have already used some of those naval assets to conduct an amphibious assault from the Sea of Azov onto the coastline there of southern Ukraine.  As I said, to Lita, I don't have any updates for you in the maritime environment.  I don't - I can't assert for sure that they are planning to do yet another amphibious assault.

Whether it's towards Odessa or any other southern Ukrainian port.  But we're watching it as best we can.  OK, Jim.

Q:  John (inaudible).  But on February 18, I asked - in Poland, I asked Secretary Austin, if the national defense strategy would need to be rewritten as a result of the Russian threats at that time.  He said no, and that the integrated deterrence concept that underlaid the idea of the NDS was already sort of in news.

I'd like to think given the Russian performance in Ukraine so far, that it sort of cements the idea of China being the pacing threat.  Yet I'm seeing stories that defense, national defense strategy is being rewritten.  Has it changed since February 18th?

MR. KIRBY:  What I would tell you to Jim, is that the national defense strategy is still being crafted.  It's going to be heavily informed by the President's interim national security guidance.  It's certainly being written in parallel with the National Security Strategy, which also hasn't been completed yet.  And you're absolutely right.  The Secretary was clear that it will reinforce his notion of integrated deterrence.

And it will certainly recognize that China remains the pacing challenge for the department.  But it will also recognize other nation state threats out there.  And that includes Russia.  And as we've been writing it, we've been writing it as we've watched Russia over the last couple of months, you know, build up this massive military force around Ukraine's borders.

So, it would be foolish for us to think that the crafting of it wasn't also informed by what we've been seeing Russia do.  But is it being rewritten as a result of what we're seeing Russia?  I think that overstates it heavily.  But it certainly will be informed by what we've been seeing over the past couple of months.  Yes.

Q:  Thanks.

MR. KIRBY:  Tara.  Tara.

Q:  Thank you.  Has a department seen any evidence that the invading Russian forces also reliance on the internet and communications inside Ukraine?  There's been a lot of questions about why  if there was an assumption early on that the Internet would be brought down that the infrastructure grid would be brought down.

Why is it that all of this infrastructure has remained in place, and are these forces also reliant on that, to communicate and navigate?

MR. KIRBY:  I can't, I honestly can't speak to Russian plans here and their intentions with respect to the information environment.  And as for their navigation skills, again, I don't - I'm not riding in the cab of these trucks.  I don't know exactly what they're using to get from point A to point B.  Clearly, they're not getting from point A to point B very fast right now, at least in the north.

So, I can't speak to that, Tara.  We have seen some internet outages.  We have seen them try to impact the information and communication environment, not the least of which is striking, you know, television towers and that kind of thing.  And it again, I don't want to speculate.

I mean, they perhaps they have found some value to keeping some public communications open for their own purposes, for their own decision-making processes.  But that's just speculation.  I don't know.

Q:  And I have one follow up on the deconfliction line.  If it's going to be used for you know, deconfliction airspace by NATO borders.  Could also potentially be used for, say coordinating a humanitarian corridor or people fleeing Ukraine, or is it just going to be military operation?

MR. KIRBY:  It's primarily a military-to-military channel.  But that doesn't mean as I've said before that it can't be used for other purposes if need be.  I mean, we'll have to see.  It's only a couple of days old.  So we're - we think it's the right thing to do.  We've done this kind of thing before.

It makes a lot of sense, particularly when you're talking about that contested Ukrainian airspace.  But could it find other purposes?  Perhaps, I mean, again, we think it's the smart and prudent thing to do.  Barb.

Q:  Couple of follow ups to other people's questions.  But one question first, can you bring us up to date on the thinking about whether to support any moves by East European allies and partners to send their MiG-29s into Ukraine to give the Ukrainians extra inventory...

MR. KIRBY:  You mean U.S.  support to that?

Q:  Do you support the idea?  Is the United States - as you know, this conversation has ebbed and flowed over the last several days of several East European allies and partners?

MR. KIRBY:  Yes.

Q:  Including Slovakia, which wants to celebrate a F-16 purchases so they could send their MiG-29s.  Is something this idea of something that the U.S.  would be supportive of?  And then I have two quick follow ups.

MR. KIRBY:  I don't have a departmental position on this proposal, Barb.  These are considerations that sovereign nation states have to make in their own into their own processes.  What I can just tell you is what we do support and what we are doing is looking for ways to continue to get security assistance into the hands of Ukrainian armed forces.

And we're doing that to a fairly well.  And we're accelerating and expediting even the most recent drawdown package that the President approved.

Q:  Let me try one more time on deconfliction.  Because so, I mean, you're - the United States is not entering Ukraine airspace or Ukraine territory.  So, you have nothing you need to notify the Russians that you're doing because you're staying outside of this war zone.  They - you said, you know, there was concern that there could be a situation in which you would have worries that would lead you to make a phone call.

And you mentioned, in fact, the nuclear incident concern was a case where you concerned that something could impact neighboring countries.  So how is there a way you can explain how much of this idea of needing to have a communications line with the Russians isn't really about deconfliction, because you're both supposedly staying on your own side?  But worry that they may not stay on their side.

MR. KIRBY:  I mean, it's primarily designed, Barb, to help reduce the risks of miscalculation.  We call it a deconfliction line.  Because that's what we're used to calling them.  And that's what we typically use them for.  But I'm not going to sit here, you know, only a few days after it's been set up, and try to draw bright lines around what it can be used for.

If there's a need for us to be able to communicate with the Ministry of Defense in a timely fashion about a concern, I suspect that we'll use it for that.  And we would hope that the Russians should they have timely concern that they want to present that they would use it as as well.

Q:  So, when the nuclear incident happened has it now led - because you provide support to the Department of Energy.  Has it led to any additional need or consideration by the Defense Department for additional protective gear, sensors, or any kind of technology for radiological, or chemical, or biological issues?

Where U.S.  troops are located and for the Allied partners, and nations and partners that they're working with.  Did last night's events, cause you to need to think about taking more protective measures, because you said there was a concern?  Do you -  one of the concerns could be the potential impact on neighboring countries.

MR. KIRBY:  In general, striking a nuclear power plant would cause anybody to be concerned about - should cause anybody to be concerned about that.  I'm going to point you to the Department of Energy, about the whatever response coordination that they feel is appropriate.  We provide some support and guidance to them.

I have no decisions to talk to you today about any additional resources that could be needed.  Again, without speaking for the Energy Department.  Our assessment this morning is that there were no radioactive leaks.  And no significant damage to the plant's operation.

But again, I really would need to point you to the Energy Department for anything more specific than that.

Q:  But for the protection of U.S.  troops in the region.  Has this caused you - are there any discussions, thinking, analysis by this department for additional protection?

MR. KIRBY:  I don't know - I know of no such decisions or no such discussions with respect to what happened last night.  But obviously we take force protection very seriously.  It's the Secretary's prime and paramount concern.  Nothing to speak to with respect to the attack on the power plant.  Yes, Matt.

Q:  Thanks, John.  You said the airspace is still contested about Ukraine.

MR. KIRBY:  That's right.

Q:  You also talked about how on the ground effort in the north it seems stalled more success than in the South.  I wonder if there's any parallels with that and the air?  I know it's a changing environment.  But are you seeing some regions in which either the Russians or the Ukrainians are more or less dominant in the air?

MR. KIRBY:  It's dynamic airspace, Matt.  It would be foolish for me to try to carve it up for you at 2:30 in the afternoon on Friday and say that you know what one side of the other has more dominance over a particular region because it's contested.  That's what contested means.  All I can tell you with certainty is that the Ukrainian Air Forces continue to fly.

They still have air and missile defense available to them.  They are using them and using them quite effectively.  And the way they have marshaled their resources and applied them to the fight in the air has been quite extraordinary.  The Russians likewise have a lot of aircraft available to them, as well as missiles.

They have fired over 500 since the beginning of this invasion.  So that's what makes this airspace - that's what makes it so contested.  Quite frankly, there's a lot of hardware flying around in that airspace.  And it literally changes throughout a given day based on what the Russians are doing and how the Ukrainians are trying to resist what the Russians are doing.

And it's because it's so dynamic and so contested that again, we felt it was important to have a deconfliction mechanism.

Q:  Great.  And one more (inaudible) off of something Barbara asked.  At this point, a senior defense official earlier said that most of the Ukrainian Air capability is still intact.  Are -does it seem like that's a need?  Or are you aware of any requests of the Ukrainians for more aircraft?

And if they already have most of their air power still intact do they even have the extra pilots to fly any extra aircraft at this point?

MR. KIRBY:  I don't want to speak for the Ukrainians.  What I can tell you is that we are in direct communication with them nearly every day, about their requirements.  And we're doing the best we can fulfill those requirements.  I guess I'll just leave it at that.  Jeff Selden.  VOA.

Q:  John, thanks very much for doing this.  Two questions.  First, Ukraine's embassy in Washington is saying it has a list of about 3,000 American volunteers, including former military who wants to go and join the fight in Ukraine.

Does the Pentagon have any position on Americans going to fight in Ukraine?  And is there any broader effort to track foreign fighters of all nationalities?  Second question...

MR. KIRBY:  I certainly can't verify the numbers that you've put up there.  We've seen no such list and no such compilation.  I would just say this.  And I talked about this, I think a couple of days ago.  Two things.  One, this is not the place for Americans to be in Ukraine right now.  And the State Department has made that very clear in urging over so many weeks for Americans that are in Ukraine, to leave.

And urging Americans not in Ukraine not to go.  It is a warzone.  Now, that's the number one.  Number two should Americans want to help Ukraine and it's laudable that they do.  That the best way to do that is to find ways to contribute to the many non-governmental and humanitarian organizations that are trying to alleviate what has now become a very acute humanitarian crisis in Ukraine.

And in countries that are now bordering Ukraine.  As the UN just estimated, I think yesterday, more than a million people have fled the country.  And that doesn't even count the tens of thousands that are displaced in the country.  So, if you really want to help the people of Ukraine as a private citizen, find a way to donate resources to these organizations that are trying to alleviate that crisis.  Tom.

Q:  Are there any prohibitions on U.S.  military personnel, (inaudible) and Army reservists who wants to go over?

MR. KIRBY:  Tom I mean; the President's been clear there's not going to be any U.S.  troops fighting in Ukraine.

Q:  But an Army Reserve that is volunteering (inaudible) Ukraine.  Are there prohibitions under the law, or DOD regulations about that?

MR. KIRBY:  You know, I'm going to have to - I'm not a lawyer.  I'm going to have to take that one time.  But let me be very clear.  The President has made it clear U.S.  troops are not going to be fighting in Ukraine.  That includes in the skies over Ukraine.  It is not a military mission that the United States military will take on.

Q:  But I'm asking...

MR. KIRBY:  I know you're asking a very specific potential scenario.  Let me find out rather than speculate and guess about that.  Tom Squitieri.

Q:  Hey, thanks, John.  Two quick questions.  One last November, the Coast Guard finished the transfer of three ships to the Ukrainian navy.  I'm wondering if the Pentagon has visibility on their status.  And the second question is, a senior official yesterday talked about how at least 70 missiles were fired from Belarus into Ukraine.

Is it the Pentagon's analysis that that - places Belarus as a participant in the war?  Thank you.

MR. KIRBY:  What we've said a long Tom, is that Belarus is partly responsible for what's going on in Ukraine.  We've been very clear about that by the support that they have given to Russia to be able to launch this invasion.

Now, we haven't seen Belarusian forces insert themselves into Ukraine.  We haven't seen indications that they're preparing to do that.  But clearly, they are complicit with President Putin's war of choice, no doubt about that.  And that's for the ships Tom, I don't have any update for you on that.  I just simply don't know.  Jeff Schogol.

Q:  OK.  Thank you.

Q:  Thank you.  It appears there's been some news during the news conference here.  I'm reading something that says the Mordovian breakaway region of Transnistria ?), which I'm not pronouncing correctly.  Has demanded that Moldova recognize its independence.  This is a place where about 1,500 Russian troops are stationed.

Is the Defense Department concerned that this could be an expansion of the Russian invasion of Ukraine?

MR. KIRBY:  I have nothing on that for you on that pal.  I haven't seen this report.  And I'm not going to try to wing it here from the podium on something that you're seeing online.  So, we'll check in and see if we have anything on it.  But I'm not going to take the question, because I believe that that's probably a better question put to my State Department colleagues.

However, I'll go see what's available out there.  But I'm just not capable of jumping into something that's breaking right now.  Tony Capaccio.

Q:  Thank you.

Q:  Hi, John, I have a budget question and not on Ukraine specific.  But what is the status of the FY 23 budget?  Are the final numbers pretty much done?  And your kind of feeding into the computer ready for release?

And has the invasion at all changed the number?  Has there been a major influx of funding in the last couple - in the last week because of the invasion?

MR. KIRBY:  Shock you Tony, but I'm not going to talk about the status of the FY 23 budget.  We're still hard at work at that.  That effort being led by the Deputy Secretary.  She's running a very tight process.  And I am not going to get ahead of that process and how that's going.  But we're working on that real hard.


MR. KIRBY:  (Idrees ?).

Q:  Tony you have a follow up?  Or do you want me to go?

Q:  Yes.  Does the National Security Strategy and the National Defense Strategy have to be published first, before the budget comes out?  Is that the sequence?

MR. KIRBY:  They don't have to be Tony.  There's no regulation.  There's no rule.  There's no legislation that requires you have to have the National Security Strategy and the National Defense Strategy published before the budgets.  All three documents inform each other.  Look, ideally, you want a budget to follow a strategy, but it doesn't have to come out that way.

Q:  OK.  Thank you.

MR. KIRBY:  Idrees.

Q:  Thanks.  Idrees.

Q:  Yes.  Just going back to the hotline when you're setting it up, how's it work?  Does General Wolters talk to his counterpart saying alright, we're going to set this up, and then some of the staff set it up?  At what level does it rise?  I guess.

And second question is any change to the nuclear forces - Russian nuclear forces after they were put on high alert?

MR. KIRBY:  I have no changes to speak to that we've noticed in the Russian strategic nuclear force posture.  We're still obviously monitoring and reviewing, as we do every day, I would just again, say that Secretary Austin is comfortable and confident in our own strategic deterrent posture.  And our ability to defend the homeland, as well as allies and partners.

And it's not a hotline, it's a deconfliction line.  As I said, it's handled and staffed at the operational level.  I don't think there's any expectation that General Wolters is going to be the only one picking up the phone.  Certainly, if he wanted to do that, as European Command Commander, he could do that.  But our anticipation is that this will be staffed at a lower level on his headquarters to really deal with operational level concerns that that need to be expressed.

OK.  One more, and then I'm going to go.

Q:  Can we get the update on number of munitions fired?  And also, if you have a breakdown of you know, where you're seeing them come from?

MR. KIRBY:  I don't have that.  And I wouldn't be putting that out here from the podium, Tara.  As I said, we have noticed - not noticed, we've assessed that since the beginning of this invasion, the Russians have fired more than 500 missiles of various types, cruise missiles, short range ballistic missiles, medium range ballistic missiles, surface to air missiles.

More than 500 of them.  That's about as much detail as as I'm going to be able to go into from the podium.  Yes, in the back.

Q:  I know you talked about (inaudible) fuel and (inaudible) today that the Russian.  I was curious if they're making any progress overcoming that?  Or if it's still largely stalled.  And then what the concern is that the Russians can maybe target other nuclear plants in the future, given this is the second one we've seen here.

MR. KIRBY:  Again, we don't have perfect visibility into Russian intentions.  We know there are other nuclear power plants inside Ukraine.  Clearly, the international community does not want to see another incident such as what we saw last night.  Which could potentially just escalate the level of violence and destruction in Ukraine to a level that is and should be unacceptable, even to the Russians.

But I can't speak to their intentions with respect to other nuclear power plants.  And as for food and fuel, again, our general assessment today is that they are still struggling with logistics challenges.  To include food for the troops and fuel for their vehicles.  We do not believe they have overcome that now.

As I've said many times, we would expect them to try to overcome these challenges.  And I think we're seeing attempts by them to do that.  How successful they've been?  Again, with a level of specificity we just don't know.  OK.  Thanks, everybody.  Have a good weekend.

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